Social Desirability Bias

Published Nov 18, 2023
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Social desirability bias is a tendency to provide answers that align with characteristics or viewpoints that the participant views as socially desirable. It is difficult to completely avoid these types of biases, as a participant will always know they are being interviewed, but researchers can minimize the effects by providing a comfortable environment, creating rapport and engaging in natural conversation throughout the interview, and keeping the participant’s personal details anonymous.


Imagine that a researcher starts an interview with this question: “How often do you call your parents?” The participant may feel that they call their parents too frequently or infrequently. As a result, they might adjust their answer to match what they believe is normal or respectable.

To better lead into this topic, the interview could start with questions that are less personal, such as “In general, do you prefer texting or calling?” and “When you reach out to family members, how do you usually contact them?” Researchers should be mindful of topics that could spark social desirability bias. That way, they can carefully structure the study to help participants share openly and honestly.

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